Sunsets, writing, and noise

Jonathan’s Patch Notes : version 10

See the original version on my site.


In this release:


Sunset Cliffs, Point Loma, CA

We’re settled into San Diego and are loving it #

The past four weeks have been nothing short of bliss. Lots of time for reading, writing, and long walks. It’s been surprisingly easy to settle into our new living arrangements, but probably this is because we’re looking for the exact same thing.

Most of my writing time has been focused on re-writing a post I attempted last year titled “How do we find each other faster?” - a summation of everything I’ve learned about making friends on the Internet over the past 2 years. The first turned out too long, so this is attempt two. I hope to have it published by the end of the month.

Life is pretty amazing here otherwise. The weather is near-perfect. Walking to the beach to see the sunset has a way of making most of my other problems seems less significant. There are lots of plants to take pictures of (I hope to create an album on the site sometime soon). We seem to have something really nice going here… but it’s expensive.

Support phone calls on a hammock make them much more bearable

How can we get this for 10x cheaper? #

Partly this comes from a desire to cut my burn rate. Another part of the motivation is in making this accessible to ten times more people. Not everyone can bank on cushy, inflated remote salaries forever. I can’t imagine I’m too far out of the ordinary to want to live and work in an environment with:

  • walking or biking proximity to nature (ocean, forest, mountains)

  • a proper, healthy work/study environment:

    • stable internet connection

    • visual and audio privacy for video calls

    • ergonomic standing desk and chair

    • windows and lots of natural light

    • climate controlled, but preferably by opening and closing a window

  • a community of curious, driven people nearby

  • reasonable travel cost (financial and environmental) to the nearest urban hub

  • a personal or community garden

  • places to volunteer, teach, or give back to the community nearby

Seems easier to attain outside the U.S. given our land prices, density issues, and zoning laws. Especially California. The Bay Area is NIMBY central: what HOA-controlled neighborhood is going to be cool with a high-density mixed use structure going up on the waterfront with a bunch of young adults coming and going? Yeah, I thought so too.

Existing universities seem to be in a unique spot to experiment around this, but offering a low-cost living & self-education offering alongside their primary one would be foolish and cannibalize their market. Non-profits could take a stab at it, but acquiring land rights takes deep pockets - investors want to see returns. Such an effort might be sustainable at cost-neutral but isn’t going to be a profit factory.

I’m increasingly warming to the idea of leaving the United States for a period of time (once we’re allowed to, that is) to find something like this. The cost of living problem becomes more manageable and I’d get to explore more of the world. But it shouldn’t take leaving my country to find a comfortable, engaging, and healthy living environment. It should be the default, provided to anyone who wants to learn and build and create.

[[post:friends-in-nature]] [[my dream working environment]]

On planes and noise pollution #

Noise pollution is real and it’s killing us. I’m fairly sure we’re going to tackle it after we sort out air pollution. I like to sleep with my windows open: the fresh air makes me feel less groggy, and hearing the environment is calming.

When near an airport however, I awaken to what sounds like a battalion of blenders taking off into the sky (sometimes it is an actual Air Force battalion). Now sure: earplugs, double-pane windows, noise meters, regulations, meetings, studies: but it’s not only the planes. Any sort of irregular beeping, vrooming, or booping is going to knock you out of your focus or keep you from entering it.

[[>]] Evidence has been accruing to indicate that young children are vulnerable to noise in their physical environment. A literature review identified that, in addition to hearing loss, noise exposure is associated with negative birth outcomes, reduced cognitive function, inability to concentrate, increased psychosocial activation, nervousness, feeling of helplessness, and increased blood pressure in children.

Noise, whether suburban or urban, makes it nearly impossible to escape this stress. Density and/or inefficiency ensures there is a lot of it. We’re going to have to fix it.

Fun fact: San Diego International Airport limits departures between 11:30p and 6:30a. This helps with the noise, but the period between 6:30a and 7:30a is … well, rather loud.

I love this plant so much. Charparral yucca, according to PictureThis.

Patch Notes: six months in #

It’s been 10 episodes of this Patch Notes practice (this is the 11th). Writing these has been really fun, but they’ve shifted somewhat in form since the first one almost half a year ago.

I’ve been having conversations on productivity systems, agendas, and note-taking over the past few weeks. My own productivity system is an unholy mess of Roam Research, journaling, boomeranging reminders, and daily existential crises. Not good!

All this thinking and reading is getting me excited about what I want the future of Patch Notes and my blog to look like. Publishing a polished version every week is somewhat unsustainable: it’s hard to find the right balance of quality and timeliness and time spent formatting is not spent writing. I want to post less-polished and less structured content more regularly while making it easy to filter between different streams of information.

One potential solution to this I see is publishing a stream of my Daily Notes files, similar to how they appear in Roam. Some thoughts around regular publishing:

  • I want more granularity: there is an increasing range of topics I want to write about and not all are suited for the entire world to read in a central feed.

    • Notes about private conversations are also a tricky situation here. “Meta: It is always hard to know what can and cannot be said in public after a conversation. Or I find it so. Never know what the other person is okay with disclosing as well.” from CJ: Tuesday October 13th, 2020

  • Future vs past tense: when I write out my schedule for the day/week I use words like “write” and “send” and “publish”. When I do my retrospectives, I say “wrote”, “sent”, and “published”. Which version is more accurate? More useful to publish? More interesting to see? I don’t want to sit there and re-write these words, yet having them change automatically feels wrong too.

  • Different posts have different weights. Not every word I type has the same significance in terms of time invested - patch notes are more in-the-moment while a blog post might takes weeks or months of work. Yet my site presents them the same.

  • I need a tighter publishing feedback loop: my current publishing system is a Rube Goldberg machine of Python scripts, monkey patched packages, and uncommitted changes on git. It needs to be instant: preferably per-character. As in, type a letter in Roam and see a rendered blog preview in the next pane.

  • Roam on mobile is an utter nightmare. Simply opening up my database on a good mobile internet connection might take 1-2 minutes. It doesn’t cache locally properly, so after being un-backgrounded it usually needs to re-fetch the data. I can’t be limited to writing on my computer and I don’t want to cut and paste between apps.

  • A deeper tagging system: something more akin to a numeric frequency than a word. If I write about writing, there’s a good chance I might be thinking in the same neighborhood as collaboration, habits, research, and art. It should be easy to explore other ideas in the same “idea space”.

    • Certain projects also might begin with one set of tags and end with another. How to correctly display the lifecycle of a project’s tags and relations?

    • Others sit squarely at the intersection of two tags (writing & nature, habits & sunlight, conversation & space). I want to write in the space between two or more ideas.

  • I don’t want one section to block the rest: I want to be able to share it immediately without having to wait for the rest of the post to be be finalized, the script to run, and the host to update.

  • A private commenting system. For all its flaws, Google Docs is a great experience for group commenting and annotations. But duplicating this information to yet another service feels wrong.

    • What I’m imagining instead is a nearly-invisible, social-graph-dependent layer commenting system on top of my site; sort of like a universal Hypothes.is/Memex layer. Preferably seamlessly integrated with email and DMs.

Bottom line: I like the patch notes format and it’s not going away anytime soon. Its primary value is in creating a space for ideas not yet ripe enough for a blog post or too transitory or fleeting for one. But I also want something more immediate, atomic, and granular. If you’re open to chatting about this - let me know!

Other miscellaneous updates #

I dug through and collected all my [[workstations]]. Enjoy :)

I’ll likely be in Austin, TX for two weeks after Thanksgiving. Let me know if you want to grab a coffee!

Boulder, CO is looking increasingly tempting as the next friends in nature destination (Spring-Summer 2021). Further updates will appear here, but let me know if you want to be added to a future mailing list.